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COVID Cases Increase in the Tri-County Area While Vaccination Rates Remain Low

Thursday July 29, 2021

106 new positive cases added this past week

Cases of COVID in the tri-county area have increased rapidly in the past week during the period of Wednesday, July 21st through Tuesday, July 27th, adding a total of 106 new positive cases.  Branch County is seeing the largest increase in positive cases with 76 new cases during that time period; Hillsdale County had 17 new cases while St. Joseph County had 13 new cases.  As a result of this increase, the CDC lists Branch County as High risk for Community Transmission, the highest risk factor category used by the CDC.  Hillsdale County is currently listed as Substantial risk while St. Joseph County maintains in the category of Moderate risk.  The CDC has four indicators to describe the level of community transmission in a county in the United States.  Those four indicators are Low, Moderate, Substantial, and High.  “The rapidly increasing case counts is a “call to action” for all tri-county residents to prevent further spread,” says Rebecca Burns, Health Officer.

The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency recommends that all tri-county residents implement the following to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

  1. Wear a mask when indoors in a public location
    On July 27th, the CDC updated mask guidance and now recommends that all individuals wear a mask indoors in public in areas of Substantial or High Risk for Community Transmission.  The CDC indicates that this change was made “to reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others”.  The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency recommends that all tri-county residents follow the guidance of the CDC to prevent spreading COVID and the Delta variant.  “At this time with the increase in positive cases it is more important than ever for all tri-county residents to continue to practice the mitigation factors that we know work to minimize transmission of COVID; wearing a mask while indoors, staying home when sick, practicing good personal hygiene, and disinfecting high touch areas,” states Rebecca Burns, Health Officer.

  2. Get the COVID Vaccination if 12 years of age and older
    Vaccination rates in the tri-county area continue to be low.  The percentage of county residents that have received at least one dose of the safe and effective vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson) is below the state goal of 70%.  Current percentages for residents having received at least one dose in Branch County are 43.5%, in Hillsdale County are 39.4%, and in St. Joseph County are 44.9%.  “The low vaccination rate in the tri-county area leaves many residents unprotected and at risk for contracting COVID,” states Dr. Vogel, Medical Director for BHSJCHA.  “In order to keep our rural economy healthy, keep school children in school, and prevent more COVID cases, it is important for more residents to get vaccinated.”

  3. Get tested if you have COVID symptoms or have been exposed
    The only way to know if symptoms being experienced are due to COVID versus seasonal allergies, is to get tested.  Testing is offered in several locations throughout the tri-county area including health department offices and some hospitals, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices.  Michigan residents can find a test at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus.  If a resident does test positive, it is important to immediately isolate from others and develop a list of individuals that have been a close contact.  Close contacts to a positive case must quarantine during the period in which they may develop symptoms to prevent potentially spreading COVID to others. 

  4. Get the facts and dispel the myths
    “There is a tremendous amount of misinformation circulating on social media and person to person about COVID and COVID vaccines,” shares Rebecca Burns, Health Officer.  When fact checking something you have read or heard, make sure to verify the source of the information.  Reliable sources include the CDC, MDHHS, your Local Health Department, and your physician.  If you have questions, please contact us at the local health department and ask for one of our nursing staff, or talk with your physician.